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This is a short dialogue from a podcast for students of French. It's just two people talking:

Wal-Mart est le plus grand employeur dans le secteur privé aux États-Unis. Cette entreprise emploie plus de 1,4 millions de personnes aux États-Unis. Elle possède 8500 magasins dans 15 pays.

Oh, cette affaire est extrêmement importante. Potentiellement, l'obligation d'indemnisation pourrait atteindre des milliards de dollars.

C'est juste ! Mais en plus, elle n'implique pas seulement Wal-Mart. Cette affaire, « extrêmement importante », comme tu dis, l'est pour une autre raison. La défaite de Wal-Wart pourrait rendre n'importe quelle grande société vulnérable à des allégations similaires.

Why is there an l before est? Is it the pronoun le? Why do we need it there? That's something I really don't understand.

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The "l'" is indeed the elided form of "le". It is a pronoun that replaces "extrêmement important".

Let us imagine the sentence without this pronoun:

Cette affaire, extrêmement importante, est extrêmement importante pour une autre raison.

Repeating "extrêmement importante" is awkward and should be avoided. Hence, it is replaced by a pronoun.

A similar example:

Sa voiture est-elle grande ? Oui, elle l'est (= elle est grande)

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    Are you saying that the pronouns le and elle can refer to and replace adjectives in French? That's interesting. I'd like to know more about that. – user69786 Nov 19 '19 at 8:07
  • Yes, but I can think only of "le" (or the elided l') to replace an attribute adjective, ie after a verb like "être", "sembler", etc. - whatever the gender and number (ex: Ces voitures sont grandes => ces voitures le sont). Let me see if I find a more comprehensive reference on that. – Greg Nov 19 '19 at 8:14
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    Agree "le" is replacing "extrêmement importante", to avoid repetition. Upvoted. Should be chosen as the accepted answer. – Quidam Nov 19 '19 at 10:50
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    Are you saying that the pronouns le and elle can refer to and replace adjectives in French?" It's "le", not "elle", "le" the neutral impersonal pronoun, and it can replace anything, any part of the sentence you don't want to repeat (absolutely not "the adjective part", the part with the repeated & important info). Cette fille est belle, et elle l'est parce qu'elle mange sainement, you could say literally "she is it/like this, because..." It replaces the whole sentence "Cette fille est belle – Quidam Nov 19 '19 at 11:00
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    If you didn't replace it, you would say, with repetitions: Cette fille est belle. Et cette fille est belle parce que... Another mean is to say: Cette fille est belle, et si elle est belle c'est que.. – Quidam Nov 19 '19 at 11:01

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